Listening with both ears

I’ll go into sharing what I’ve set up so far for a shack in a bit..

Other than some antenna/transmitter tests with a local friend who’s also into amateur radio, I’ve yet to contact people using my rig.

When joining any new community, I feel it’s important to observe and understand what’s going on before barging in and bothering the people that were here before me. I’ve seen far too many examples online and off of people who come in and don’t understand why they’re angering the locals, I want to try and not be the cause of that myself.

Some new hams admit to being shy the first times, and while I can’t discount┬á that entirely for me, it’s really about learning and getting used to the speech patterns unique to this medium. I’ve no problem having many people hear my voice, but I want to be sure I can “talk the talk” when I get on.

There’s lots to learn even at this early stage, being a listener gives me a chance to learn how to use the gear, the antennas, the tuner, all the twiddly-bits. I’m seeing how different bands propagate, and the types of activity on the different frequencies.

It’s also a great chance to see how people behave on the different bands. I was surprised to find that different types of people hang out on different frequencies. Some of them sound very formal, whereas some others almost sound like CB radio, and others still sound like shouldn’t be there at all ­čÖé ┬á It’ll be interesting to see where I choose to spend my time.

So for now, it’s listening – soon, “joining the conversation” ­čÖé

Certification

Studying by scui3asteveo
Studying, a photo by scui3asteveo on Flickr.

In Canada, most countries and planets, you need to be certified if you want to transmit on amateur radio frequencies. I started studying in June using an older version of the RAC (Radio Amateurs of Canada) study guide I’d obtained years ago.

Most of the basics hadn’t really changed, so I was able to use the combination of the book and the Industry Canada Amateur Radio Exam Generator to learn and monitor my progress. ┬áThere’s also a great test software (free) called exHAMiner, which uses the same question banks as the Industry Canada tool, but offers additional information to understand which answers are correct and why.

I have little interest (so far) in learning morse code, so my goal was to get “Basic with Honours” certification. There are 2 levels of Basic: “Basic” which is VHF/UHF only, ┬áand “Basic with Honours” which adds the HF frequencies, where apparently the cool people hang out. ┬áTo get Honours one must pass the exam with a grade higher than 80%, so I had a pretty clear goal and the tools to accomplish it.

So off I set to read/study/learn. Among other things, the topics cover items like radio waves, propagation, transmitter and receivers, antennas, some basic electronics, and regulations. I took the practice tests often, and when I reached the point that I was able to consistently score around 90% on the random test, I figured I was ready to take the exam.

Once I was ready, I contacted an examiner, we met in a library, and I wrote the exam. I hadn’t written a test in a long time, so there were a few jitters, mostly because I didn’t want to waste anyone else’s time. My worries were unfounded, and with a 94% grade I was officially allowed to request certification. The examiner sent the results off to Ottawa with my call sign choices, and within 3 days, I was listed in the Canadian call sign database. Woo!!

I still haven’t┬áreceived┬ámy paper certificate, but no one ever said government paperwork was quick ­čÖé I’m glad they processed the call sign quickly though, and I am now authorized to use the amateur frequencies.

Now I needed boxes with blinking lights to get on the air ­čÖé

 

Update – of course, a few hours after posting this, my certificate arrives in the mail… hehe..

Hi, I’m Bob, or VE2PDT to you :)

 

” … a satisfactory hobby must be in large degree useless, inefficient, laborious, or irrelevant.” – Aldo Leopold

 

I’ve always loved and been drawn to radio. I remember being quite young when my dad showed me how at night you could hear AM stations from far away places.

There was magic in the air – listening to WKBW from Buffalo or WABC from New York, they sounded HUGE in my bedroom here in Quebec.. These were the days before cable TV, ┬áhere were these big bold authoritative American stations, beaming tunes and DJ-patter at us with such power and energy, yet by dawn, they were gone.

It was literally a portal to another world opening up each night at sunset. I was hooked. Who knew what the magic would bring that night? Baseball games from Boston or St-Louis, tunes from New York or Chicago, ┬átraffic reports for roads I’d never seen. It seemed like there was no end to it. ┬áTo this day I still listen for distant stations at night – though many stations sound alike now, the offerings are no where near as exciting as they once were.

One day, my dad showed me another radio in the house, with the strange “SW” (shortwave) band. Here was the whole world! Strange languages, accents, cold-war propaganda, jamming, stations that broadcast nothing but numbers! More magic!!

As I grew,  my passion for radio started to include wanting to understand the technology behind it. I learned about waves and electronics as I built transmitter kits that let me BE a radio station, even if the range was only about 100 feet.

In my late 20’s, my father passed away, and I took some time to reboot. I discovered an old 1940’s radio at a market, and was hooked into antique radio repair/restoration. I’d discovered a new way to feed my radio addiction.

My journey into podcasting is directly related to my love for radio. Here was a transmitter-less, legal way to be radio. Since I had never worked in radio professionally, this was my opportunity to learn some of the craft behind producing radio-like content.

So here we are in 2011, and I’ve found yet another outlet for my radio passion. I’ve studied for and passed my amateur radio certification, and obtained my own call sign: ┬áVE2PDT. Now radio becomes a two-way communication device, and instead of just listening to the world, I’ll be able to interact as well.

Some of you may be thinking, “Dude, you can interact with the world here. It’s 2011 and called email/social networks/cell phones” .. Yes, that’s true, but none of these feed my passion for radio. Also, I still think it’s cool that I can converse with someone in Europe without there being any 3rd party between us. No telecoms, no Apple, no nothing – Just air. There’s magic in that air.

I’ll be blogging about my amateur radio adventures here, as I build out and use my “radio shack” and hopefully sharing useful information along the way.

CQ CQ CQ…